The two leading American hopes in Saturday’s $400,000 Secretariat (G1) at Arlington tend to do their best running on the lead. A potential duel between the two could help the European contingent, Permian in particular, in the 1 1/4-mile grass test for three-year-olds.
Although he threw in a clunker in the Epsom Derby (G1), the Mark Johnston-trained Permian has been one the surprises of the season in Europe’s middle-distance three-year-old division. Recovering from his Derby flop, the son of Teofilo proved an earlier 10-1 upset of the Dante (G2) was no fluke with a half-length score in the King Edward VII (G2) at Royal Ascot. Most recently, Permian missed earning his first Group 1 score by a nose in the Grand Prix de Paris (G1) at Saint-Cloud, a left-handed track.
Oscar Performance, the 8-5 morning line favorite, has already demonstrated his ability to beat international competition when taking last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1). After two early-season reversals in Kentucky, the Brian Lynch trainee has registered back-to-back wins in the Pennine Ridge (G3) and Belmont Derby (G1), the latter over a mile and a quarter.
However, both wins were accomplished via uncontested leads, and Sonic Boom has used his early foot to win two straight himself, including the American Derby (G3). Seemingly less a need-the-lead type than Oscar Performance, he was seventh to that rival’s fifth when they last met in the Transylvania (G3) in April.
The European contingent is rounded out by Afandem, trainer Jean-Claude Rouget’s French import, and Taj Mahal, who goes for three-time Secretariat-winning trainer Aidan O’Brien. Stakes-winning Afandem has won three of four, the only miss being a half-length second in the Prix Eugene Adam (G2) at Maisons Laffitte last time. Taj Mahal is not one of the more accomplished runners Coolmore has sent for the Secretariat, although he did run a close fourth in the French Derby (G1) in early June.
The short field of six is rounded out by Gorgeous Kitten, who has form to find off seconds in the Arlington Classic (G3) and American Derby.